(credit due to my future SIL for the title of this post, thanks Steph!;) )
I’m in a particularly southern mood right now because I’m bloggin’ my fried chicken tenders recipe. (Please read in a southern accent, because although I am not actually from the south, I believe I cook my fried chicken like I am). You see, I’m a chicken-a-holic. And I am a fried chicken/chicken fingers enthusiast. I have done the leg work on taste testing every chicken finger I could possibly get my hands on, and I’ve been making fried chicken since I was in high school (thanks to my mama and her recipe, which is also delicious). I’ve made them countless different ways to perfect my recipe and it’s one of my own favorite things to make.
I had some requests for this recipe from my story on IG last week, so I am happy to oblige and share the deliciousness. A good tip, and something that I do every time I make them, is to make large batches of these and freeze what you don’t eat. They reheat in the oven really well at 375 degrees and it’s a million times better than any chicken you’ll find in the freezer aisle. Certain meals are all about the set up – once you take the time to set it up, the rest of the cooking/making of the food is kind of mundane and it really doesn’t take much more time to make extra. And this is one of those meals! So if you’re making some, you might as well double the recipe and have some delicious leftovers.
I promise, you will love these and you will be glad you spent the time to make them!
The one caveat that I have is that it is MUCH faster to make in a deep fryer. We use ours outside or in our garage (if it’s raining) so that it doesn’t smell up the house. You can absolutely still make these inside, though, in a large pot (preferably a dutch oven because it maintains the heat evenly). I will add some additional tips for making it inside at the end of this post. Find the recipe below!
Recipe for 4 servings
- a deep fryer or dutch oven (or large pot, if that’s what you have)
- 2 quarts canola oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have canola)
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3/4 cup of flour
- 2-3 tablespoons corn starch
- 3 eggs
- splash of milk
- 1 1/2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup of regular breadcrumbs (if you only choose to use one form of breadcrumbs, skip the regular and go with more Panko)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder (or cajun seasoning works great too)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper – it really won’t be very spicy, I promise (use MORE if you like things a bit spicier, which I do, so I put 1.5-2 tbs) — If you don’t like spicy food at all, you can substitute for pepper or garlic powder here (or just omit seasoning here).
- a little salt to finish
Start by getting your breading station ready. You’ll need some good counter space for this to be able to do it quickly and easily. You will need 3 bowls for breading and one to put the chicken fingers into.
In the first bowl, combine the flour, corn starch, and chili powder (or cajun seasoning).
In the second bowl, combine the eggs, splash of milk, and black pepper (and whisk it all together).
In the third bowl, combine the two different types of bread crumbs and the cayenne pepper. The purpose of the two different bread crumbs is that the panko gives it a nice crunch, and the regular bread crumbs fill in the spots that the panko doesn’t quite get (because panic is larger in size).
Finally, take your chicken breasts and trim the fat off and cut into whatever size chicken tenders you’d like. I make them kind of small so that there’s more surface area of breading to each tender. If you prefer a meatier chicken tender, make them larger… or if you like more breading, make popcorn chicken. (You will likely need to increase the elements in the breading station in that case, though, because you will be breading smaller pieces).
**A huge, important step, is to make sure the chicken is dried off before breading it. If it’s not, the breading will not stick. I put mine on paper towels on top of paper plates (so I can just toss them and not worry about the bacteria, etc.) and put another piece of paper towel on top to dry it.
^that’s what your breading station should look like when you are ready to go.
Then all you have to do is run the chicken through each station. Evenly coat each piece and shake off the excess before putting into the next station. (I added more cayenne pepper for half of mine because my baby was having some and I like mine extra spicy).
You might wonder why you need seasoning in each individual station, versus just putting it all in the last one, but the key to really flavorful fried chicken is to season each layer of breading. Trust me, it’s delish!
*Sorry for the shotty photos – truth be told, we had a real health scare with my dog Gracie and I was really out of it when I was taking these pics. We think she’s all good now, though!! 🙂
Then all you need to do is fry these bad boys! We fry in multiple batches so you don’t crowd the fryer and the chicken cooks evenly. We probably did these in 3-4 batches.
I use canola oil in the deep fryer and the chicken tenders don’t take very long at all – maybe like 7 min/batch. But watch them just to be sure. As I’m cooking them, I keep the previous batches in the oven on a sheet pan at 275 degrees and add a little kosher salt to top them off before serving. They go really well with jasmine rice or even with french fries. I hope you enjoy these as much as we do!
Tips for cooking on a stovetop:
- start heating the oil up (on medium high) before you bread the chicken. It needs a good bit of time to preheat to be hot enough to fry your chicken. If you put the chicken in when the oil is not hot enough, it’ll turn out weird and soggy (and you will start sweating panicking, and contemplating take-out and it won’t be fun). The oil needs to be heated to 350 degrees.
- Trick to see if the oil is hot enough (because who really has a thermometer to check?) — use the bottom of a wooden spoon and put it in the oil. If little bubbles form around the wood, you are good to go. If not, be patient and wait until they do. Here is an example of what the oil looks like when it is ready to fry. Little ripples develop in the oil when you put the wooden spoon in and it bubbles up around the utensil.
- Do in multiple batches and when you take one batch out, because they are golden looking and delicious, wait a couple of minutes so that the oil comes back up to the right temperature again and is hot enough to fry properly.
- SLOWLY put the chicken in the oil. It is HOT and if it splatters up at you, it won’t feel good. I use a “spider” like this one to put a couple of pieces at a time into the oil (or to take them out).